Tuesday, November 20, 2012


In his book "Citizens: A Chronicle of The French Revolution", British historian Simon Schama argues;

"For it is at the top, rather, rather than in any imaginary middle of French society, that the cultural roots of the Revolution should be sought. While any search for a conspicuously disaffected bourgeoisie is going to be fruitless, the presence of a disaffected, or at the very least disappointed, young "patriot" aristocracy is dramatically apparent from the history of French involvement with the American Revolution. That revolution did not, as is sometimes supposed, create French patriotism; rather, it gave that patriotism the opportunity to define itself in terms of "liberty", and to prove itself with spectacular military success."

Schama's analysis focuses on continuum of life stories, rather than discrete events. Personal stories connected to one another, reflecting intimacy and drama; stories that are told without requiring political classifications, deliberately eschewing systematic compartmentalization. 

This sort of brave history telling builds itself in sharp contrast to familiar Marxist line that in a way hijacked French Revolution; put its events under bitter cold dialectical lens, undermined personal stories as much as it could, and locked events and people into precise compartments (eg. class struggle),  perhaps in the aim to retrofit them into Marxist Revolution.

Therefore this book opens rather than closes the story of French Revolution in a novel way. In its origins new avenues emerge such as the role of young patriotic aristocracy whose influence appears to be far greater in shaping the revolution compared to bourgeoisie; a much like fabricated afterthought rather than a genuine power broker.

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